Municipal Enterprise

Our Common Wealth: The return of public ownership in the United States

Thomas Hanna

Public ownership is more widespread and popular in the United States than is commonly understood. This book is the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the scope and scale of U.S. public ownership, debunking frequent misconceptions about the alleged inefficiency and underperformance of public ownership and arguing that it offers powerful, flexible solutions to current problems of inequality, instability, and unsustainability- explaining why after decades of privatization it is making a comeback, including in the agenda of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party in Britain. Hanna offers a vision of deploying new forms of democratized public ownership broadly, across multiple sectors, as a key ingredient of any next system beyond corporate capitalism. This book is a valuable, extensively researched resource that sets out the past record and future possibilities of public ownership at a time when ever more people are searching for answers.

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City-owned since 1991, GoDurham provides bus and paratransit services across Durham.  In 2016, GoDurham operated 24 bus routes and served 5.9 million passengers.  To help encourage ridership, all of its buses are equipped with free WiFi, and seniors and children ride for free.

City of Durham Sanitary Landfill

The City of Durham Sanitary Landfill is a city-owned landfill containing 3.6 million tons of waste.  Since 2009, the City has been capturing the gas produced as organic material in the landfill decomposes and converting it to electricity.  The effort has the capacity to produce two megawatts of electricity, which is used by Duke Energy to provide power for about 1,900 residential customers.

Tompkins County Area Development

Established in 1964, Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD) helps foster a thriving and sustainable economy by a) growing, retaining, and attracting companies that provide high-quality employment opportunities, and b) creating an environment supportive of entrepreneurship and business development.  In 2017, TCAD supported 22 projects expected to invest $142.9 million in the Ithaca region.  To help entrepreneurs launch and expand businesses, TCAD established its Revolving Loan Fund Program in 1989, an effort credited with lending $3.1 million to 68 companies that have created or retained over 1,100 jobs.  TCAD also provides management and administrative support to two County entities:  1) the Tompkins County Development Corporation, which provides educational and nonprofit projects with access to low-interest rate debt in the tax-exempt bond market; and 2) the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (TCIDA), which provides economic incentives to projects that will strengthen the County’s tax base and enhance community vitality.  To foster renewable energy generation, TCIDA adopted a commercial solar policy in 2017 that provides a property tax incentive to community solar projects, an effort that is credited with supporting six projects expected to generate 12 megawatts of solar power (i.e., enough to power 2,400 to 3,600 homes).

Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport

Owned by Tompkins County, the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport serves over 200,000 passengers, generates nearly $456,000 in sales tax revenue, and injects over $30 million into the local economy on an annual basis.  In the fall of 2018, construction will begin on a $24.5 million renovation project that will double the size of its existing facility when completed in 2019.

Muni Fiber Models

Institute for Local Self Reliance

San Diego Gas & Electric Company

Incorporated in 1881, the San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) is a regulated public utility with 4,000 employees providing energy services to 3.6 million people in San Diego and southern Orange counties.  Focused on environmental sustainability, 45 percent of its electricity is from renewable sources, well above the national average of 8 percent.  SDG&E also operates an Energy Innovation Center, from which it provides area residents and businesses free energy education and training, meeting space, and access to more than 100 energy-measuring tools through its Tool, Book, and DVD Library.  Also committed to supplier diversity, SDG&E offers supplier development and technical assistance, contractor safety workshops, and related events geared towards diverse business enterprises.  In 2017, SDG&E directed 44.6 percent of its contract spending to diverse businesses, more than double the California Public Utilities Commission’s annual goal of 21.5 percent.

Democratic Public Ownership for the 21st Century

The Cooperative Party

Noting that a majority of British residents support public ownership of the railways and key utilities, this new paper from the Co-Operative Party calls for modern forms of democratic public ownership. The authors outline how democratic public ownership can lead to productivity gains and protection from government underinvestment in critical infrastructure. The paper outlines what ownership could look like across rail, water, and energy, making actionable recommendations in each sector

Making the Federal Reserve Fully Public: Why and How

Jordan Haedtler, Andrew Levin and Valerie Wilson
The Center for Popular Democracy

Tacoma’s TAGRO

Made and sold by the City, TAGRO (short for Tacoma Grow) are organic lawn and garden products for landscaping, vegetable gardens, and indoor container gardens.  The City makes about 32,000 cubic yards of TAGRO a year by recycling thousands of tons of biosolids and then sells the products at low-cost to commercial and residential users across Tacoma to encourage environmentally-friendly landscaping and gardening practices.  The City also maintains a demonstration garden at its central wastewater plant and donates its produce to area food banks.

Reclaiming Public Services

Satoko Kishimoto, Olivier Petitjean and Lavinia Steinfor
The Transnational Institute

This new report from the Transnational Institute (TNI) explores how localities across the globe are fighting privatization through the “re-municipalization” of goods and services. Drawing on 835 examples in 45 countries, the report finds that public ownership offers greater efficiency, affordability, and democratic control in sectors ranging from healthcare to energy. The report synthesizes trends in public ownership and includes detailed infographics on the findings. 


The Shape of a New Economy

Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Gar Alperovitz is an historian, political economist, activist, writer, and government official.  In addition to a distinguished career in academia, he is also the a co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, a research institution developing practical, policy-focused, and systematic paths towards ecologically sustainable, community-oriented change and the democratization of wealth.  His latest project is called the “Pluralist Commonwealth,” which is an economic model that is neither traditional corporate capitalism nor traditional state socialism.

Listen to Gar's interview with Ralph Nader here